The Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) has inaugurated a Digitization Project Steering and Coordinating Committee aimed at creating a national research bank to serve as repository of academic research works and theses for the nation’s academic community.
The move is aimed at protecting the academic integrity of educational institutions and the academia and will also help generate a large collation of local institutional research into Digital Repositories in tune with international standards in Public Tertiary Institutions across the country.
It will in addition engender exposure and appreciation of intellectual activities of Nigerians by the international communities across the globe.
Inaugurating the Committee made of subject experts, the Executive Secretary of TETFund, Arc. Sonny Echono, informed the committee that the project is being sponsored as a Library Intervention by the Fund, originally borne out of the need to redress a situation that saw the amassing of a rich collection of research dissertations with limited access.
He pointed out that though there existed some repositories for these research theses, they were not accessible to either the local or international audience and as such the aim was being defeated.
Arc. Echono reiterated that his tenure would focus on Entrepreneurship, Pedagogy and Research, leveraging on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and that the digitization of theses and dissertations is one step to accomplishing these goals as it involves the creation of institutional repositories using ICT for the institutionalization and commercialization of research products.
The Executive Secretary however charged the Committee to adhere to their Terms of Reference which include: the development and adoption of a model digitization policy for beneficiary institutions; provide coordinating support and guidance for the project management team to implement this digitization project successfully; develop frameworks and procedures to ensure that the project deliverables are strictly adhered to; Identify intellectual property issues, ownership and reward models for institutions and stakeholders.
Other terms of reference are; provide monitoring and evaluation support for the project; liaise with the various beneficiary institutions to ensure that the project is on track as scheduled; provide scheduled reports on the progress of this project to TETFund; promote adoption and achieve conflict management among identified stakeholders whilst maximizing the project benefits across key stakeholder groups;
In addition, the Committee is to; advice on related initiatives that is, electronic database subscription, internet infrastructure provisioning, eLearning platforms, value-added services and others that impact the successful delivery of this project; advice on project sustainability envisaging TETFund eventual financial signoff; identify existing working models across the globe and advise accordingly and undertake and advise Management on any other actions that will contribute to the success of the Project.
Arc. Echono expressed that the project must be carried out urgently as it could bring immediate value to the national academic sphere. He therefore tasked the Committee to give the project their best.
The Chairman of the Committee and Secretary General of Association of Vice Chancellors of Nigerian Universities, Professor Yakubu Ochefu, in response, assured that the Committee will deliver on the Terms of Reference, saying that they will commence evaluating policy framework, data management systems and as well seeing to the creation of key metric systems to monitor uploads and downloads.
Professor Ochefu also said that the Committee will liaise with other institutions globally to benchmark their theses digitization processes and systems in order to advise the Fund on a repository management system that will be reputable and sustainable.
In a goodwill message at the inauguration, Executive Secretary, National Board for Technical Education (NBTE), Prof. Idris M. Bugaje stated that this digitization process was long overdue, as institutions exist as silos and that the digitization of dissertations and theses will undoubtedly allow for cross communication between institutions and the free flow of information as well.
He also noted that it would reduce plagiarism significantly, which will give room for the production of authentic academic products, thus ushering the Nigerian educational system on the path of excellence.
The National Librarian and Chief Executive of National Library of Nigeria (NLN), Professor Chinwe Veronica Anunobi, re-echoed the words of other speakers, saying that the digitization of theses will enhance the visibility of research output in the country. She also expressed her gratitude for the opportunity to serve in the Committee.
The representative of the Executive Secretary, National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE), and the Deputy Director, Personnel Management of the Commission, Mr. Babatunde Aremu, in his goodwill message opined that the digitization is the best project so far in the Academic community as it will engender revenue generation as Institutions would be able to contribute to the economy via the commercialization of research.
A Power Point presentation by the TETFund Acting Director of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), Mr. Joseph Odo, revealed that presently, digitization is only at 7%. The goal however is to capture at least 2 billion theses over the past ten years starting with Post Graduate theses. The digitization process he said is expected to start from a hundred of the least digitized institutions, to put Nigeria at par with other academic community across the globe.